Advertisement food service leaderboard
Advertisement food service leaderboard

Meeting The Twain Between Product Design and Ergonomics


Occupational hazards in the cleaning industry are not that conspicuous. But if they are not addressed, they can pose a serious threat to the health of workers. - By Zenifer Khaleel


Filed under
April 19, 2018
Share this story
Subscribe to our newsletter

To receive the latest breaking news and stories in Dubai, the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.

Meeting The Twain Between Product Design and Ergonomics
Occupational hazards in the cleaning industry are not that conspicuous. But if they are not addressed, they can pose a serious threat to the health of workers. A truly ergonomic product is one that caters to all its stages like design, manufacturing, usage and maintenance. Over the years, companies have strived to make products that are the perfect blend of aesthetic beauty and ergonomic compliancy to make the task easy for the end user. 
Let’s take a look at how a few international brands have turned ergonomics to their advantage while designing their products.

Kaivac is a US-based company providing science-based hygienic cleaning systems for more than a decade. They are the developers of the No-Touch Cleaning® system and the OmniFlex™ Crossover Cleaning system.

The company has taken a hands-on approach in designing ergonomic cleaning equipment. “What we do is look at how cleaning workers perform specific tasks and see if we can design systems that make performing these tasks less physically stressful and prevent injuries; while improving overall cleaning,” explains Marc Ferguson, International Business Development Manager of Kaivac.

Citing the case of a traditional floor mopping exercise, he explained that using a mop and bucket has several repetitive musculoskeletal disorders risk factors. When filled with water, a bucket can weigh as much as 40 pounds and the wet mop, around three pounds more. Because of the way most buckets are designed, filling or emptying a bucket requires the cleaning worker to lift the bucket from floor level to a waist-level sink. Even if the drain area is at floor level, the worker must still bend or squat to lift the bucket for draining, risking a strained back.

The actual mopping process is also viewed as a risk factor, as it entails wringing out the mop head, lifting and carrying the mop while it is wet, and then using repetitive motions to perform the actual mopping. Additionally, many mop poles may be too short or too long for the worker, which can negatively impact shoulders and require reaching or bending to use the mop effectively. Furthermore, a wet floor and the usage of chemicals, makes slip-andfall accident more likely.

To combat this issue, Kaivac has introduced an assortment of smaller, interconnecting, ‘build-as-you-need’ tools to address a variety of cleaning tasks, especially floor care. The thought behind the concept is that the tools can be used independently or together, as needed.

Often cleaning workers start with the essential tools such as trolley buckets with handles, making them much more comfortable to maneuver. Then, they add attachments that help turn the trolley bucket into a dispense-and-vacuum cleaning system. These systems also leave the floor dry in seconds, eliminating the possibility of a slip and fall accident.

“These cleaning tools and equipment reflect our product development goals: they are designed to be less stressful on the body, eliminate repetitive motions, to be lighter, smaller, and easier to maneuver; plus they match (if not improve) overall cleaning effectiveness,” says Ferguson.


UK-based Vectair Systems, a leading technological innovator, manufacturer and supplier of air care and hygiene products, has been delivering sanitary solutions to over 120 countries for 30 years

According to Robert Dix, Head of Product Development at Vectair Systems, making a product ‘easy and instinctive’ to use can make a big difference on how people perceive its worth. “Product design is very important as it gives you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. It makes the functions and features of the product appealing and gives it an edge over competitors,” he says.

Vectair’s main product line includes dispensers for air care, sanitary care and skin care. While designing products, the main consideration is given to how it is installed in the environment it is meant for. The contours of the product are made smooth with no sharp edges, to reduce the risk of people cutting themselves. Another factor in consideration is that no large force should be required to open the covers for installing refills. “If the refills are to be replaced every month, the dispensers have to be as simple and straightforward as possible. There could be hundreds of units that need refilling at the same time. So, the installation should be in a very accessible place,” says Dix.

Other parameters for design include how will the product be used, its duration, need for replaceable parts, service requirements etc. Vectair conducts extensive market research on existing and potential customers while issuing guidelines for product design. The perfect product is a balance between functionality, performance and cost. “You need to understand the market you are selling into and know what customers want and more importantly what they will pay more for. Making something easy and intuitive to use that doesn’t require instruction can be the best way to reach out to the customer,” concludes Dix.


Hako GmbH is a manufacturer of street sweeping equipment and ultra-light commercial vehicles. For the past 70 years, they have attached a great deal of importance to product design by carrying out extensive studies and working on creating both optimal and future-oriented machines.

Ergonomics plays a key role in their overall machine concept. The most important feature of their machines is to enable several hours of fatigue-free working on a daily basis. “We design products by putting ergonomics, safety and cost efficiency right at the top of our list of priorities. For example, when it comes to the ergonomics of cleaning machines such as vacuum sweepers or scrubber-driers, we implement all the standards required to ensure maximum user-friendliness in order to protect the operator’s health. It is our aim to ensure that our products’ overall cost-effectiveness is reflected in a particularly intelligent and sustainable product design,” says Ricardo Ruiz Porath, Product Line Manager of Cleaning Technology, Hako GmbH.

While designing machines, they ensure that the quality is maintained with regard to the machine’s entire life cycle. “We aim at providing our customers with well-functioning machines, through comprehensive real-life testing as well as stationary endurance tests. Economic efficiency provided by sustainable product concepts ensuring low battery-, water- and chemical consumption. Ergonomics studies considering the entire machine for its capability of providing an overall comfortable workplace, i.e. in terms of haptics and positioning of the operating elements,” says Porath.

According to Porath, the benefits of providing employees and clients with ergonomic products are many. “We are putting our employees in charge of very expensive machines. Providing comfortable seating, while doing so, is likely to boost their motivation and signify appreciation for their job. In addition, comfortable working reduces absenteeism due to illness,” says Porath.

“Our one-button operating system ensures that the operator can fully concentrate on the job at hand while starting all relevant cleaning functions at just the push of a button. Implementing sophisticated electronic control systems enables us to meet specific customer requirements. These systems allow individual programming of cleaning programmes to optimally adapt the machine to the local conditions at any given job site. There is no need for the operator to handle various different switches, levers or buttons; a single button starts all of the machine’s cleaning functions,” he adds.

Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal of Hako products because, at the end of the day, it is the customer who makes the purchase decision. Following this maxim, Hako continuously expands and optimises its product portfolio whilst remaining in close dialogue with its customers throughout the products’ entire life cycle. Ensuring clear and unambiguous communication, they work out customer needs and requirements in a joint process between Hako and its clients.

“We use our seven decades of experience to subsequently implement these requirements into our products. We develop our products in strict keeping with the prescribed standards and therefore meet the highest demands in terms of safety and people’s health. In addition, we have developed in-house guidelines to assess and analyse our development results in order to ensure that our products offer both maximum safety and comfort. The challenge is to develop a product for our customers that is both selfexplanatory and easy to use, with a uniform operating concept used for all our walk-behind and ride-on machines to ensure that operators need only very short training to be able to handle any of our cleaning technology products,” concludes Porath.

More than form, function plays an important role in product design of cleaning equipment. Customers across the world, demand products that are characterised by economic efficiency, and user-friendliness while providing excellent cleaning results. By catering to these demands, these companies have reaped multiple benefits in terms of customer satisfaction, increase in efficiency and ultimate cost savings.


Hydro Systems is one of the world’s largest independent manufacturers of dilution, dispensing and dosing systems for concentrated chemicals. For them, UX or user experience plays an important role in developing ergonomic products.

“The main criteria for me during the writing of a product specification or investigating a concept are listening to people (Customers, Users and Colleagues), asking relevant questions and gaining their input,” says Chris Dyer, Principle Engineer of Global Advanced Development at Hydro Systems.

Ergonomics plays an important role in all stages of their products’ life. “Health and safety is our first priority, and we relentlessly test the equipment to ensure it is robust and safe, during development phase,” he says. “Traditionally ergonomics and aesthetics were very much secondary to function and performance. Today, they are very much integral to the development of a successful product or system. UX is the latest umbrella term that includes both,” he further adds.